Creating Beauty, Revealing Truth
As I’ve struggled to regain a sense of self in the aftermath of rape and sexual assault, my view of the world has changed, perhaps permanently. I no longer believe that people are inherently good, doing the best they can. I believe people are inherently selfish and scared. Most don’t care if their actions hurt others, or if they do, it’s a distant second to what feels good to them.
They’ll have that affair and betray their wives/husbands/partners/children/families, as long as they can get off. Have an orgasm. Penetrate or be penetrated for a few minutes.
How horrific, petty, and disgusting. Not sexual desire, although that, too, no longer holds much interest for me, but the fact that sexual desire is placed above so many other things in life.
I say most people, and I suppose that’s an overstatement. It’s been my experience with most people I’ve encountered. After all, 80% of married couples are unfaithful at one point or another. So very few people have the courage to be genuine or the integrity to be honest, even of it isn’t sexual deviancy and deception at the core.
I’ve written several short stories over the past few years, and a few novels, too. All of them, I find, have a similar theme, and it wasn’t intentional. It’s what comes through my subconscious in the writing. One of my rape counselors, the only one of three, I’m proud to say, that I’m still seeing, read a short story I wrote two years ago, shortly after the first sexual assault by a supposed friend and collegue. That was the assault that opened the door for the next two. For as I’ve learned through extensive research into rape, Rape Trauma Syndrome, and rape recovery by reading countless articles about and accounts of rape over the past year, that once a person is victimized through sexualized aggression and/or sexual violence, the chance of being victimized again doubles, then triples. Part of the reason for this is the mind/body’s confusion of what happened, especially (as is the case 85% of the time) if it’s perpetrated by someone the victim knows and trusts. It’s the cognitive dissonance between friend and rapist, lover and rapist. Our mind tries to disprove that was what happened. Our trust is skewed. Our view of love and affection has been altered. Our boundaries, shattered, making it that much easier for the next predator to worm his way in.
Regardless, I digress. Imagine that.
So, my rape therapist read “The Final Word” after it was published by The Rusty Nail, and he saw something in that story that I didn’t consciously put in there, but it’s been a running theme in my life since that first assault through the other two: ignoring one’s own warning signs/red flags, dismissing them as one’s own emotional “issues” and “overreaction,” often supported by societal beliefs and manipulation by one’s abuser/perpetrator (gaslighting), only to painfully (or fatally) discover there was a very valid reason to be frightened and self-protective.
After the struggle to regain who I am outside of the trauma experienced, as well as the struggle to maintain my career and writing output during a time I was barely functional, I’ve come out on the other side feeling isolated and alone, largely because I isolate myself for safety. My trust in people is completely gone, and whenever I have tried to dip that proverbial toe back into the water of society, I’m quickly reminded of why I isolate myself. I trust again, and I’m betrayed again. At least I’m noticing the pattern sooner rather than later.
Another running theme in much of my work is the ultimate relief that only death can bring as well as the cowardice and treachery of humankind, especially men, since that has been the bulk of my personal experience (not to say I haven’t felt betrayed by women. I have, incredibly so, mostly in the aftermath of the rapes last year. Those who spoke out publicly against me the loudest were women). Since the beginning of 2013, I’ve been relatively quiet on this blog. Much of my focus was still on rape recovery and rape in the news, and I was quite fatigued talking about it, but not quite able to talk about much else. To focus on other “happy” or “positive” things felt like a lie, felt deceptive, so I just didn’t write much on here at all.
Instead, I wrote a novel and three short stories.
Some days, the harshest realization is that I very likely still have about 45 years in this life, and I feel as if my life has lost all meaning and purpose. I have endless hours to fill in isolation from everyone except my amazing husband, my dog, and my cat. The only other human being I talk to face-to-face is my therapist, who is also awesome and supportive, kind and compassionate.
I’ve been culling connections on social networks, cutting anyone who even breathes in a misogynistic and/or victim-blaming way. Anyone who is insensitive or lewd. My self protection level is at an all-time high.
A few weekends ago, I ventured out once to meet an online friend for coffee, dipping that toe in the water of socialization, not even a date, just a friendly meeting with another human being. Baby steps and all. This person turned out to be a registered sex offender and a rapist by his own admission of actions. He told me that although he wasn’t picturing having sex with me yet, he probably would be in the near future. Later that week, another man, who found my escape-artist dog, turned my gratitude for a good deed into sexualized debt, propositioning me to show my thanks. The very same day, I heard from three people in Austin**: the first, a member of the dance & poly community that embraced my rapist and shunned me; the second, a man I briefly dated after the rapes (who threw me over because I was “too insecure” even though I was “nonjudgmental” about his “taboo kinks” like fucking animals and relatives — remember what I said about fucked up boundaries after sexualized violence? Prime example), thankfully, we were never sexually intimate; and a third, who I didn’t remember nor did he remember me after we supposedly met on OKCupid last year, contacted me to see if I wanted to get together again (just in case).
So, yes, back into isolation.
My career has suffered during this time of assault and recovery. The world and publishing and Steampunk has all continued on without me while I dealt with and healed from these violations. The Steampunk community, too, embraces the one who violated me, as he was able to continue with his career, not being traumatized…
Again, I digress.
My point is…what’s the point? I’m here for another 45 years, give or take, unless I’m really lucky, so what am I to do with all that time? I don’t have kids. I don’t trust people. I’m afraid of everyone because of what was done to me. I see the inherent problems in the legal and law enforcement around rape and sexualized aggression, how 97% of rapists walk free and everyone from community to friends to family to the law blames the victim.
I don’t know how not to be victimized again–how to trust again–other than staying away from everyone, so that’s what I’ll do for now.
Although I love to hear when people respond to my articles or stories, and I cherish every one of those comments, it’s become clear how few supporters I really have after years of writing and eight books, so I write because it’s cathartic. I write and paint and crochet because when I create beauty in any form, it passes the endless hours of every day until I can be unconscious again for another eight to ten hours…only to start all over again. I play with my dog. I listen to Beethoven Radio on Pandora and drink a frothy mocha alone. I run alone. I’m learning about gardening so I can create more beauty in my safe haven in the mountains of Northern California. I write and share articles about rape and consent and rape culture. I talk to those who want to talk to me, ones who can be respectful and supportive and genuine. I help others feel less alone, and then I feel less alone, too.
In the evenings, I get to cuddle up with my husband, my dog, and my cat and watch Monk or some other show until we all fall asleep.
I’m so tired of talking about rape and rape culture, but I’ll keep talking about it and other important issues as it moves me. If you’re ready to hear it, you’ll listen and join in the conversation. If you’re not, you won’t. Hopefully you’ll never know what it’s like to be compelled to talk and read and examine rape and rape culture just to cope and understand why someone you loved raped you, why your community and friends turned from you and embraced him.
I truly hope you’ll never know what it’s like to be so traumatically betrayed by your lover and your community. I truly, truly hope…
I’ll keep writing, and I hope you’ll keep reading and commenting, for I do love your feedback, but I’ll write regardless of whether it’s published or not. Whether people read it or not. Whether readers comment or not. I’ll write and create to pass the hours, as it proves temporary relief from the human condition until I’m finally graced with the ultimate relief in another 45 years, give or take.
My life has no purpose but the one I create, and I choose to spend the time I have in this life creating beauty and revealing truth to those ready to hear it.
May you find peace.